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UPDATED: City will try to buy Red Cedar Inn June 25, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants.
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The Red Cedar Inn restaurant in Pacific, Mo., which closed a few years ago after more than 70 years on Route 66, eventually will reopen as a visitors center and area history museum, reports KTVI-TV in St. Louis.

As expected, the City of Pacific voted unanimously Tuesday night to acquire the property. The city had been discussing a new site for its museum, and the Red Cedar was the leading favorite early in talks.

KTVI has a video with the story.

UPDATE 6/25/08: The Tri-County Journal reported that the Pacific City Council decided to enter into negotiations to buy the Red Cedar Property. So KTVI’s report that the council voted to purchase the property was a tad premature.

But it appears that Route 66ers helped push the city in the right direction:

The city also received what City Administrator Harold Selby called a “surprising” letter from Michael Taylor, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program manager for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Taylor also offered to help provide information on potential technical and financial assistance available to the city for the restoration project.

The letter was just one of many letters and e-mails Adams said he received in support of the idea of the city buying and restoring the Red Cedar. In addition to letters from area residents, letters of support also came from St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and local radio personality Joe Sonderman of KLOU, whose recent book on Route 66 includes information on the Red Cedar and other Pacific Route 66 landmarks.

“This historic building (Red Cedar) is important not only to Pacific, but the whole region,” said Esley Hamilton, a preservation historian for the St. Louis County Historic Building Commission. “This is definitely a building that should be preserved.”

One of the biggest enthusiasts for the Red Cedar project was Kit [sic] Welborn of St. Louis, a member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

“We believe if the city does this, it will not only allow one of the most viable icons on Route 66 to remain, but it will be a wonderful welcome mat for people who travel along Route 66 into Pacific,” Welborn said. “Let’s preserve the past so future generations will be able to tell their kids about the Red Cedar.”

Frozen custard in Tucumcari? I’m there June 25, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants.
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I found this fascinating little tidbit in the Quay County Sun about the CornerStone Deli, a fairly new restaurant on Route 66 in Tucumcari, N.M.

It’s in an old Pizza Hut building, and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. But this part of the story got my interest up:

Employing a staff of 11, it is also one of the few places in New Mexico where you can purchase frozen custard, the Hicklins said.

“We use only the best ingredients, to produce the freshest, best tasting product possible,” Hicklin said.

It may not be Ted Drewes, but the prospect of frozen custard in a desert town like Tucumcari is an enticing one indeed.

Mike Hicklin and his son Ruben also opened a CornerStone Donut shop across the street a few weeks ago.

‘Tucumcari Tonite’ billboards will return June 25, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Signs, Towns.
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After a short hiatus, the famed “Tucumari Tonite!” billboards that once graced Route 66 will be returning to Interstate 40 and U.S. 54 to publicize that eastern New Mexico town, reports the Quay County Sun.

For more than a year, billboards advertising the city have featured a silhouette of cowboys on horseback and the slogan “Gateway to the West.”

“We want to go back to ‘Tucumcari Tonite’ which is nationally recognized,” said Bill Kinder, owner of the Blue Swallow Motel and a member of the city’s Lodgers Tax Advisory Board. […]

In outlining board members emphasis for the new billboards, board chairman Diane Morency said the billboards will focus on the old slogan and Route 66 to draw in tourists.

As other billboard contracts expire, the board plans to reintroduce the old slogan, ‘Tucumcari Tonite.’

The “Gateway to the West” slogan was amazingly ill-advised, considering that a certain town by the name of St. Louis had dibs on it.

“Tucumcari Tonite” was used for decades, is instantly recognizable and conjures up a lot of memories for older travelers. Let’s keep it, OK?

After the party … June 25, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Magazines, Web sites.
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Emily and I have been home for a couple of days since the Route 66 Festival ended in Litchfield, Ill. So I’ve had some time to reflect on our unexpected twin killings.

Even when you don’t count our honors, we agreed it was the best awards banquet we’d attended since we started going to these annual gatherings in 2002. The meal was first-rate, the program was crisp, and, most of all, the honorees were highly deserving.

And the honors earned by Swa Frantzen’s Historic66.com, yours truly’s Route66News.com and Emily (who has a considerable presence with multiple Web sites) show how much of a role the Internet has played with the Mother Road’s revival. Without the World Wide Web, I doubt Route 66 would have seen the renaissance it is experiencing today.

My first experience on the Internet with Route 66 was Frantzen’s site, David Williams’ graphic-heavy Route66.com and the Route 66 e-group, back about 2000. Regrettably, Williams lost interest in the site some years ago, was taken over by what he called “hijackers” and appears to be defunct. But the Route 66 e-group, now a yahoogroup, is still going strong with 1,400 members and lively discussions.

Not long after that, Emily and I went on our first big Route 66 trip. It changed our lives. We experienced the tremendous beauty and diversity of our nation. We became more involved with preserving the historical landmarks that remained. And we moved to Oklahoma, which boasts more miles of Route 66 than any other state.

The genesis of Route 66 News came gradually. I saw there didn’t seem to be many people monitoring newspapers and other news outlets across the country for Route 66 articles. Save for an occasional post on the e-group, there wasn’t much firsthand reporting, either. Route 66 Magazine and American Road did yeoman’s work, but it was weeks between printing runs. There was difficult to find news from the Mother Road now.

Also, I grew tired of hearing how Route 66 was a dying road and that nothing was going on there. I knew better. I knew that not only were many of the old businesses hanging on, but new businesses were rising as well. But little did I know how much activity there was until I plunged into building Route 66 News as a media clearinghouse. It surprised me — and others, too.

Route 66 News was never intended to be a blog. But the more I investigated the Internet avenues available, it became clear that blogging — with its ease of writing stories, its archives and its multimedia capabilities — was the way to go. So here we are, in the blogosphere.

I figured Route 66 News would receive its formal accolades in five to 10 years, not in less than three. But it drew a dedicated readership quickly, and a few posts (the “Cars” references come to mind, with more than 100,000 page views) attracted the attention of non-66ers. So it appears my faith has been rewarded.

I received the Person of the Year honor. But, actually, it honors Route 66 News. And you readers are the reason the site is thriving.

Thank you.

Jest for fun June 24, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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The three singers are the 3 J’s, which are “Whispering Joe” Gnaidek, Johnny “Moo Moo” Miller and John Weiss, which formed five minutes before their performance of “Route 66″ at the Route 66 Association of Illinois’ Hall of Fame Banquet in Lincoln on June 6.

(Courtesy of Lenore Weiss)

“Culinary zen” June 24, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants, Road trips, Television, Web sites.
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Kevin Sheedy of the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle and his wife, inspired by a recent Food Network episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” went from Wichita to Stroud, Okla.

Two Route 66 restaurants — Cafe on the Route in Baxter Springs, Kan., and the Rock Cafe in Stroud — were the highlights of their trip.

On the Cafe on the Route:

For lunch, we tried several items featured on the TV show: Apple Smoked Salmon, a seven-ouncer with apples, bacon and chives served with Mandarin orange glaze. I’m no Joe Stumpe or Denise Neil, but I know good food when I swallow it, and this was good eatin’.

For dessert, we shared Fried Cheesecake. In a word, supercallifragilisticexpialidocious.

Amy Sanell, the co-owner with gourmet chef/hubby Richard, and a young waitress made our party feel at home and shared personal details — some astonishingly sad — that you don’t learn from a chain restaurant’s staff on the Interstate.

On the Rock Cafe:

Once again we ordered items that the hefty host sampled on the TV show: a Ruben Sandwich and Jagersnitzal and Spaetzle. What the heck is a Jagersnitzal and Spaetzle? To quote the menu: breaded and fried pork cutlet topped with creamy bacon, onion and mushroom sauce served with small German homemade and hand-cut noodles.

It’s not something you’d expect in a roadside diner, and it’s the kind of food I’d whiz past while scanning the menu, because in general if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it.

In this case, my lack of vocabulary would have cost our tastebuds one heck of a treat. And in some sort of culinary zen, the Ruben and the Jagersnitzal and Spaetzle worked nicely together as we shared our plates.

For dessert, we shared Peach Cobbler with ice cream and Bread Pudding. Cholesterol? Never heard of it.

As wonderful as the food was it might have been topped by the zany characters running the cafe. Welch, who was one of the inspirations for the character Sally the Porsche in the animated movie “Cars,” was the chief jester in a court full of fun folks.

To Sheedy’s dismay, he learned the Rock Cafe was gutted by fire shortly after his visit. But he promises to be back when it reopens, probably sometime next year. You can check the progress of the cleanup and rebuilding here.

A visit to Gay Parita June 24, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People, Preservation.
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We travel the old alignment of Route 66 in west of Springfield, Mo., at least once a year. That stretch of the Mother Road is a joy to drive, but many of the old gas stations have fallen into ruin.

But just a mile or so west of the spot where Missouri Highway 96 forks to the left and Route 66 continues straight is a re-creation of a historic gas station that disappeared decades ago. It is the Gay Parita station, which sits in the hamlet of Paris Springs.

Gay Parita is a re-creation of a gas station once owned by Gay and Fred Mason. It was built in 1930, and was destroyed by fire in 1955.

But Gary Turner, a Route 66 buff, decided to revive it in the past year or so. At first glance you’d think it’d been there for generations. It includes the old Mae West-style gas pumps.

Turner (here sitting with Emily Priddy) is more than happy to show a Route 66 traveler around if he’s there. He’ll regale you with stories about the station — both past and present — and might offer you a cold can of orange pop. Turner is as much of a Mother Road attraction as his station is.

The interior of the station is crammed with memorabilia, too.

Gay Parita isn’t entirely a re-creation. The separate garage, where auto repairs were made, was built in 1926 and still stands. Parked in it is a 1948 pickup truck.

The garage contains more gas-station memorabilia, including the pay window.

The “Cabins” sign is an original, too. The guest cabins at Gay Parita are long gone.

And this gasoline truck parked between the garage and station sure isn’t a re-creation, either.

The day we stopped on the sparsely traveled road, we heard soft 1950s music coming from the station, and cottonwood seeds floated in the wind. Turner and his wife were sitting in outdoor chairs next to the station, contentedly watching the world go by as the sun started to set.

I thought to myself: “That’s not a bad way to live, right there.”

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